Ask the Expert – Zoelle Horowitz: Is it best to do yoga in the morning or evening?
Morning practice is your best bet according to tradition and modern research. Although, doing yoga on a regular basis will always help improve stiffness in your body. If your lifestyle requires an evening or even haphazard yoga schedule, then by all means practice when possible!
The Ancient Scripts
According to the ancient scripts, the best time is the two hours before and including sunrise. This period of the day is known in Sanskrit as bralmwmuhurta. It is understood to be most conducive to reaching higher states of consciousness. It is a time when the world is pure and quiet, one’s stomach is appropriately empty with docile intestines and your nervous system is a blank canvas to begin the sketch of your day on.
It is thought that after a still night’s sleep, bodily fluids and connective tissues build up between muscle sheaths creating spider-web-like adhesions. These frail bands are easily broken during a good stretch routine. Without immediate loosening, the bands create a pathway for connective tissue to build upon and can create chronic muscle tension. Take a look at this video by Dr Gill Hedley, who explains the concept with visual aids (Note: strong stomach required here, as cadavers are used).
Studies have shown that morning practice facilitates physiological health and emotional wellbeing most effectively. A stiff back in the morning is probably a consequence of a physical manifestation of your psychological concerns. The emotional benefits of morning practice are scientifically justified in this paper published by the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal.
I recently travelled to Nairobi, Kenya and visited one of my newfound yoga gurus, Oriane Torode, who teaches Ashtanga-based creative Vinyasa flows with Dharma Mittra inspirations. She is an inspiration herself and an experienced yogi. Through her years of self-observation she has found morning practice to be the most beneficial for her: “I start my days, every day, with a strong, invigorating series of mixed asanas, tune into my body, my breath, my soul and start the day, in what I believe, is the most effective, meaningful way. In the morning our body feels stiffer, although it also means that it forces us to pay more attention to the resistance in our body. This reduces the risk of pushing too hard, so this in turn will make our practice safer. We are softer and tend to force less in the morning. Wake up. Clean up. Go to your mat. Be in silence. Undisturbed by the vicissitudes of the day.”
You can follow or contact Oriane through her website www.yogavinyasa.co.uk: or visit her for a tremendous class during a travel stint to Kenya. Happy early rising!